A former wrestler has sued his Catholic high school, claiming the New Jersey school and church officials conspired to cover up sexual and verbal abuse in its nationally recognized wrestling program.
The suit filed Monday alleges Bergen Catholic High School head coach David Bell and some of his assistants shared pornographic images with team members, watched wrestlers strip naked and sent athletes inappropriate text messages. It also claims school and Archdiocese of Newark officials worked to shield the coaches.
The way they addressed it was to systematically isolate and intimidate this young man," said Andrew Miltenberg, the student's attorney.
Some students and parents, meanwhile, took to social media to defend the coaches.
"It used to be innocent until proven guilty, and now it's guilty until proven innocent," said parent Robin Cody. "I'm frustrated at that."
In a statement issued Monday, Brother Brian Walsh - president of the school in Oradell - said the suit was "based on allegations that are unfounded, frivolous and untrue." He said the school would vigorously defend itself.
School and archdiocese officials say they reported the abuse allegations to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office when they learned about them.